We, the Department of Ethnic Studies at UCSD, stand firmly in support of the current mass demonstrations for immigrant rights. We believe these mass actions—the largest in California history—affirm the vital importance of immigrants to our national social, cultural, economic, and political life. Current proposed immigration legislation that increases the militarization of the border, restrict access to social safety-net programs including health care, and keep children from equal access to education, function to unjustly criminalize individuals and their families. This legislation is far-reaching given the precarious boundary between “legal” and “illegal” status within many families. Such criminalization is particularly chilling in a post 9/11 atmosphere in which immigration and criminalization is often conflated with terrorism. While the current debate is focused on Latinos, these issues affect the health of social citizenship for all ethnic and racial groups. This legislation contributes to the further erosion of human rights and protections for all members of the United States.
The most egregious is the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437), which would not only make being in this country without documentation a felony, but also label anyone who assists an undocumented individual as a felon. This proposal is unfortunately similar in intention to many others before it that assumed that punishing immigrants will somehow “control” the border. This bill, and others like it, is misleading and ineffectual because it blames individuals who immigrate to help their families survive, instead of the policies that impoverish the immigrants’ homelands and force them to leave. This legislation obfuscates the role of the United States in creating the global flow of migration in the first place through international interventions, including trade agreements such as NAFTA, which affect other nations’ domestic policies in the pursuit of global capital. It is clear that the global movement of people accompanies the global movement of capital. And, it should go without saying that people who migrate—like all people—have the right to expect dignity, respect, and hope regardless of which border they cross.